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[Organizing] [ULK Issue 66]
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Book Review: Grit

pen and sword
Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance
by Angela Duckworth
Scribner, 2016
[Editor's note: This review of Grit follows on several articles printed in ULK 63 about the book and lessons we can glean for our organizing. This comrade offers a more in-depth review of some of the practical uses for our work, but also some criticisms of the politics of the book. We encourage readers to check out ULK 63 for more on organizing theory and practice.]

I really like this book, not just because I found lots of useful tactics and strategies for pursuing my own personal goals in life, but because I was able to see that I've already been putting many of the author's suggestions into practice, both in my capacity as a revolutionary and as someone pursuing a particular goal: my freedom. Therefore, in writing this review, I have not only tried to sum up the tactics and strategies I found most useful, but those which others might find use for as well. However, this review is not without criticism.

The author of this book, Angela Duckworth, is a professor of psychology at the University of Pennsylvania and she wrote this book to make one basic statement: success in any endeavor is dependent on the amount of time, hard work, determination, and effort that someone puts into something.

Now this concept might not seem so special or even new to someone, but to a dialectical materialist, it speaks power to truth in that it demolishes certain idealist and metaphysical notions about what it means to be gifted and blessed in bourgeois society. Of course, as a dialectical materialist, I also understand that this book must be viewed with a critical eye, as it contains both positive and negative aspects.

Professor Duckworth makes it a point to begin eir book by explaining that lofty-minded individuals aren't usually the type of people to accomplish much of anything. Rather, it's those with a "never give up" attitude that will reach a marked level of success. Professor Duckworth also successfully argues against the myth that the only thing that matters is "talent." Instead she says a bigger factor is developed skill, which is the result of consistent and continuous practice. From a Maoist perspective this means that it is people who take a materialist approach to life and who understand the dialectical interplay between people and people, and between people and their surroundings, that will go the furthest the fastest.

In addition, the author puts forward organizational guidelines that are useful to just about anyone, even the imprisoned lumpen. How prisoners decide to exercise the professor's tools is entirely up to them. We would hope however, that USW members and other allies participating in the United Front for Peace in Prisons would use the lessons in Grit to further the anti-imperialist prison movement, as what they essentially amount to is the piecemeal approach to struggle.

So what does it take to develop grit as the author defines it? The following are just some of the book's pointers that I could relate to and I'm sure you can too:

  1. Having direction as well as determination.
  2. Doing more of what you are determined to do and doing it longer equals grit.
  3. Learn from your mistakes.
  4. Grit is more about stamina than intensity ("Grit is not just working incredibly hard, it's loyalty").
  5. Do things better than they have ever been done before.
  6. Goals are essential to strategizing long term, and you must also have lots of short-term goals along the way.
  7. Having goal conflicts can be healthy: what may at one given moment seem contradictory may in fact be complementary.
  8. Don't be intimidated by challenges or being surrounded by people who are more advanced or developed. This can only help you grow.
  9. Overextending yourself is integral toward growth, it's what helps you develop. Also, repetitive diligence cultivates.
  10. Daily discipline as perseverance helps you to zero in on your weaknesses.
  11. Passion is a must!
  12. Go easy on newcomers.
  13. Look for quality over quantity when measuring growth.
  14. What we do has to matter to other people.
  15. Have a top level goal.
  16. Stay optimistic!
  17. Maintain a growth mindset.
  18. Don't be afraid to ask for help!
  19. Following through is the single best predictor of grit.
  20. Getting back up after you've been kicked down is generally reflective of grit. When you don't, your efforts plummet to a zero. As a consequence, your skill stops improving and you stop producing anything with whatever skill you have.

So now that we've looked at tools for overall improvement, growth and development let's look at some specific tips on how to add a little more intensity to our routines and organizational skill set. The author talks about something she calls "deliberate practice." Deliberate practice is a technique or range of techniques that people across different professions use to become masters in their fields. Whether someone is a spelling bee champ, professional basketball player, or computer programmer, all these people have one thing in common: deliberate practice. I include the message here because it can be useful to revolutionaries. Simply put, deliberate practice is all about becoming an expert at something. Deliberate practice is the essence of grit:

  1. Wanting to develop.
  2. Not just more time on task, but better time on task.
  3. Focusing on improving your weaknesses; intentionally seeking out challenges you can't yet meet.
  4. Practicing alone, logging more hours than with others.
  5. Seeking negative feedback for the purposes of improving your craft.
  6. Then focus in on the specific weaknesses and drill them relentlessly.
  7. Don't be afraid to experiment if you find yourself getting stuck or even if you're not. Sometimes you have to get out of your comfort zone even if you're already doing good. Who knows, you might do better.

Now, at the beginning of this review, I said this book was not beyond criticism. So here are some problems I found with Grit.

To begin with, the author caters to the idealist Amerikan ideology of "pulling yourself up by your bootstraps" and failing to take into account the structural oppression faced by the internal semi-colonies in the United $tates. Furthermore, most of the author's case studies, those who she refers to as "paragons of grit," come from privileged backgrounds and their success in life can be easily linked to the surroundings in which they were allowed to develop their skills to their fullest potentials. Compare this to the experience of the oppressed nations: the lumpen in particular who exist along the margins of society, or the [email protected] semi-proletariat who must struggle in order to meet its basic needs. Therefore, all is not simply a matter of will and determination for the oppressed as we might be led to believe. There are a variety of social factors in place which the oppressed must contend with in the grind of daily life.

Another problem I have with this book is where the author makes the statement that it generally takes up to 10,000 hours or 10 years of practice for someone to become an expert in their field. The author bases this hypothesis on data she's gathered in preparation for eir book. This inherent flaw in the professor's work is exactly the type of problem that comes from applying bourgeois psychology and sociological methods according to bourgeois standards within a narrow strip of bourgeois society. This was something of a turn off to me as I grappled with the concepts from a revolutionary perspective. I can imagine how discouraging it can be for our young comrades or those otherwise new to the struggle to read that it takes 10 years to become an expert in something, especially when they come to us eager to put in work. I wonder if I, myself, would have continued engaging Maoism if I would have heard or read this book when I was a newcomer? I would like to think that I had enough grit to not listen to the naysayers and instead keep on pushing, but I just don't know.

Maoist China also grappled with similar questions during the Great Leap Forward (1959-61) and the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution (1966-76). Beginning with the Great Leap Forward, there were those in the Communist Party, as well as in the economic sector, who advocated an "expert in command" approach to work and politics. The people pushing this line believed that only those with years of study or practice in China's greatest institutions or in the West's most prestigious universities were qualified to lead the country towards socialism. Most of these people would turn out to be enemies of the revolution and ultimately responsible for putting China back on the capitalist road.

On the other side of the discussion where the Maoists who advocated the slogan "red and expert" to emphasize the importance of revolutionary will and determination over that of expertise. In other words, it was more important to pay attention to the masses motivation of serving the people according to revolutionary principles than to the bourgeois commandist approach of top down leadership and authoritarianism that was the essence of "experts in command." Furthermore, the Maoists understood that to overly emphasize a reliance on the bourgeois methods of organization for the purposes of efficiency and profit was not only to widen the gap between leaders and led, but to return to the status quo prior to the revolution. What's more, those calling for expert in command were also criticized for their stress on theory over practice and adoption of foreign methods of organization over that of self-reliance and independence. As such, the Maoists opted to popularize the slogan "red and expert" as they believed this represented a more balanced approach to political, cultural, economic, and social development. To the Maoists, there was nothing wrong with wanting to become expert so long as the concept wasn't separated from the needs of the people or the causes of the revolution.

Partly as a response to the struggles gripping China during the time, but more so as an attempt to meet Chinese needs, the Communist Party initiated the "sent down educated youth" and "going down to the countryside and settling with the peasants" campaigns in which thousands of high school and university age students were sent on a volunteer basis to China's rural area to help educate peasants. The students lived and toiled with the peasants for months and years so that they would not only learn to empathize with the country's most downtrodden, but so that the revolutionary will and resolve of the privileged urban youth could be strengthened. Part of the students' mission was to build the schools in the countryside and teach the peasants how to read and write as well to help advance the peasants' farming techniques according to what the youth had learned in the cities. While these students may not have been "experts" in the professional sense, they did more to improve the living conditions of the peasants than most professionals did criticizing this program from the sidelines.(1)

The barefoot doctors program is another Maoist success story which even Fidel Castro's Cuba came to emulate. The majority of China's population were peasants and had virtually zero access to modern medical care. To address this problem, peasants were given a few years training in basic medical care, and sent to work in China's rural area. Again, the focus here was not on expertise, but on practice and revolutionary will for the sake of progress not perfection. While those trained certainly were not expert medical doctors, they were of more use to the peasants than the witch doctors and shamans they were accustomed to.

While Grit offers a lot of useful information for comrades with little organizational experience, we should keep in mind that much of what we communists consider correct methods of practice has already been summed up as rational knowledge by the revolutionary movements before us. Bourgeois psychology can be useful, but history and practice are our best teachers. Look to the past and analyze the present to correctly infer the future.

As Mao Zedong Stated: "Marxists hold that man's social practice alone is the criterion of the truth of his knowledge of the external world."(2)


MIM(Prisons) responds: Throughout the book, Duckworth focuses on high-performance bourgeois heroes and institutions, in order to address the question of "what makes them the best at what they do?" In answering this question, the author does briefly acknowledge that access to resources can play a decisive role in one's success in a particular field. That might mean having money to pay for pool access to become a great swimmer. In another way, access to resources might boil down to the semi-random luck of having a decent (or crap) coach in public school sports. Of course there are socio-economic reasons why good coaches are at certain schools and not others, and why some schools have sports at all and others don't — and those are reasons linked to the three strands of oppression.

Duckworth's analysis of how we (as outsiders) can influence someone's internal grit underlined how big of an influence one persyn or experience can have on someone else's passion and perseverence. For example, we don't need material resources to change our attitude and behavior to a "growth mindset." And, while a broader culture of grit is certainly preferable, we can still make a big impact as single organizers — in many of eir examples, the paragons of grit cited one or two key people in their lives who played a major part in their success. And ULK's contributors' persynal histories in "Ongoing Discussion of Recruiting Best Practices" confirms this.

Duckworth's analysis on this topic is outlined in "Part 3: Growing Grit from the Outside In," and MIM(Prisons) has been discussing this section at length to improve our own practices. We have an extremely limited ability to organize and influence people — we are only struggling with our subscribers through the mail, which comes with many unique challenges. Our subscribers have access to very little resources, and we can't buy them the world. But if we can make even our limited contact more effective — through our study, execution, experimentation, and the feedback we receive — we believe we can still make a big impact. Duckworth helped build my confidence that even though i'm only one organizer, and i'm not really that talented at it to begin with, my efforts still matter a lot.

While Duckworth does good to knock down the idols of talent, ey replaces them with the hardworking individual, rather than the knowledge of the collective, and group problem solving. The group is acknowledged as one thing that can help you as an individual become great, in eir discussion of the "culture of grit." The examples from China that Ehecatl brings up emphasizes that our goal is not to be great as individuals, but to serve the people by bringing together different sources of knowledge, to see a problem from all sides, and to engage the masses in conquering it.

In a related point, Ehecatl says that we need to "do things better than they have ever been done before." I'm not sure of the deeper meaning behind this point, and it's one that i think could be read in a discouraging way. We certainly should aim to do things better than we have ever done them. But if we know we can't do them better than everyone ever, then should we give up? No, we should still try, because "effort counts twice" and the more we try, the better we'll get at it.(3) And, even if we're not the best ever, we can still have a huge impact. Like Ehecatl writes above, we don't need to clock 10,000 hours before we can make big contributions.

To deepen your own understanding of the principles in Grit, get a copy to study it yourself. Get Grit from MIM(Prisons) for $10 or equivalent work-trade.

Notes:
1. China's Cultural Revolution: Before and After by Ehecatl of USW. A review of Daily Life in Revolutionary China, Maria Antonnietta Maciochi, available for $2.
2. On Practice, Mao Zedong. ($1)
3. USW7 of USW, "Grit's Break Down Build," ULK 63, July 2018.

Related Articles:
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[Gender] [Theory] [ULK Issue 65]
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Notes on Advancing the Struggle Inside: Intersecting Strands of Oppression

Today's principal contradiction, here in the United $tates, is the national contradiction — meaning that between oppressed nations and oppressor nations. MIM(Prisons) provides some very provocative questions as to secondary contractions, their influence on or by and in conjunction to the current principal contradiction. Class, gender and nation are all interrelated.(1) Many times, while organizing our efforts and contemplating potential solutions to the principal contradiction, we overlook the secondary and tertiary ones. Such narrow-mindedness oftentimes leads to difficulties, hampering efforts toward resolution. Other times it makes resolving the principal, effectively, impossible. Analogous to penal institutions making it possible to punish a citizenry but impossible to better it due to the irreconcilable contraction between retributive punishment and rehabilitation. This is why reforms consistently fail and prisons persist as a social cancer.

In regards to intersecting strands of oppression, prisons are illustrative of more than pitfalls of narrow-mindedness (i.e. reform of one aspect while leaving the rest intact). Prisons also provide numerous examples of oppression combinations. Interactions of nation and gender oppression are some of the most evident. Penal institutions are inherently nationally oppressive, because they are social control mechanisms allowing capitalism to address its excluded masses. Since the United $tates is patriarchal in practice, prisons over-exaggerate this masculine outlook, creating an ultra-aggressive, chauvinistic subculture.

Intersection occurs oft times when a female staff member is present. Other than the few brave people, most wimmin in prison are regarded as "damsels in distress." Generally speaking (at least in Colorado prisons) a male will accompany a female; though, most males make no effort to do this for other men. Capitalism's undercurrent to such "chivalrous actions" is rooted in wimmin being the weaker, more helpless and vulnerable gender. In prison, machismo culture such is the chauvinist's belief. While many wimmin aid in their inequality by accepting, encouraging, or simply not protesting such "chivalry," brave, independent wimmin experience a form of ostracism — they are derided, an effort to enjoin their conformity. At the same time men are being chivalrous, they sexually objectify females, further demeaning them, reinforcing their second-class status under machismo specifically and, capitalistic patriarchy generally.

Furthermore, there is also the ever-present nation bias (e.g. hyper-sexualizing Latina females, white females should only fraternize with whites). As prisons are "snapshots" of general society, the contradictions — their intersecting and interacting — hold useful material for revolutionary-minded persyns.

Intersection of different oppression strands (as shown above) demonstrates that the resolution of one does not automatically mean resolution of others. For instance, should machismo in prison dissolve, the national oppression will still remain and vice versa. Prisons are an encapsulation of society, meaning, their abolishment will not necessarily translate to class, nation, gender contradiction resolutions throughout society. Although, it is a very good, versatile place to start. Penal institutions are more of an observation laboratory where the effects and affects of contradiction co-mingling manifest. A place to watch, document, analyze, formulate and possibly initiate theory and practice. There is no better way to comprehend oppression than to witness it in action. Nor is there any better way of combating the many oppressions than from the front lines.

Notes: 1. See, MIM Theory 7: Proletarian Feminist Nationalism; MIM Theory 13: Culture in Revolution; MIM Theory 2/3: Gender and Revolutionary Feminism; MIM Theory 11: Amerikkkan Prisons on Trial. Each available for $5 from MIM(Prisons), P.O. Box 40799, San Francisco, CA 94140
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[Special Needs Yard] [Street Gangs/Lumpen Orgs] [Non-Designated Programming Facilities] [California] [ULK Issue 65]
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Advancing the AEH is the Answer to Forced Re-Integration

During the summer of 2018, the California Department of Corrections & Rehabilitation (CDCR) attempted to initiate a radical new policy to re-integrate General Population (GP) and Sensitive Needs Yards (SNY) prisoners throughout the state. These two populations have been separated for decades, but are now living together in what they are calling Non-Designated Programming Facilities (NDPFs).

SNYs were first created in the late 1990s to provide safe housing for prisoners convicted as sex offenders and other prisoners who had fallen out of favor with prison gangs. This population exploded during the early 2000s, when the CDCR began to ease housing restrictions and criteria on SNYs.

In 2015, the office of the Governor of the state of California, Jerry Brown, authored the document "The Governor's Plan: The Future of California Prisons" in which they published the rising costs and administrative difficulties related to operating SNYs. It was within this document that the questions of how to stem the growing need for SNY, and possibly re-integrate GP and SNY, was first asked. In 2016, a "SNY Summit" was held by CDCR officials and so it seems that NDPFs developed from both the Governor's Plan and the SNY Summit.

According to a CDCR memorandum titled "Amended Non-Designated Programming Facilities Expansion for 2018," additional NDPFs were to be created out of existing GP and SNY. The stated purpose for this expansion was to "...expand positive programming to all inmates who want it." The NDPF expansion was scheduled to take place as early as September 2018 at two different institutions with more to follow in the months ahead.

The official list of NDPFs is relatively short, and only reflects NDPFs affecting level 1, 2 and 3 prisoners at this time. However, MIM(Prisons) has been receiving a lot of contradictory information on this issue from prisoners, much of which can be attributed to rumors from both pigs and prisoners. Therefore it is difficult for us to assess the situation and sum up matters. Naturally these developments have prisoners on both sides of the fence worked up and full of anxiety.

The forceful integration of GP and SNY prisoners poses obvious concerns for the safety and security of everyone involved. As dialectical materialists, the left-wing of United Struggle from Within (USW) understands that change cannot be forced from the outside to the inside within this particular situation. Rather, unity can only develop from the inside to the out, which is why we are against NDPFs. Re-integration of SNY and GP is something that can only work once prisoners themselves settle the disputes and resolve the contradictions that led to the need for prisoners to de-link from the rest of the prisoner population and seek the protection of the state to begin with.

Contradictions amongst the people must be peacefully resolved amongst the people; there's no other way around this. Until this happens, the new prison movement will remain divided and unable to unite along true anti-imperialist lines. It is for this very reason that we continue to uphold and promote the correct aspects of the Agreement to End Hostilities (AEH), which was developed by prisoners themselves. In the AEH we see an end to the large scale prisoner violence that racked California prisons for decades. We also see a possibility for the re-emergence of revolutionary nationalism amongst the oppressed nation lumpen of Aztlán, New Afrika and the First Nations.

The AEH is a foundation for the movement, but movements are not built on foundations alone; for this we need brick, mortar and other materials. Likewise the building blocks to the new prison movement will need the contributions and participation of as many of California's prisoners as possible if the signatories to the AEH really wanna live up to the revolutionary ideals which they profess and which so many claim to be instilled in the AEH, lest the AEH be but a hollow shell. No doubt that the AEH was hystoric, progressive and even revolutionary six years ago, but the time has come to amend the document. All language excluding SNY prisoners from the peace process and casting SNY as enemies should be revisited if prisoners from the Short Corridor Collective and Representative Body are truly interested in taking the AEH to the next level.

For more information on re-integration and NDPFs contact Julie Garry Captain Population Management Unit (916) 323-3659.

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[Organizing] [Crossroads Correctional Center] [Missouri] [ULK Issue 65]
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Debating Missouri Uprising

time to ring the alarm

13 May 2018 — 208 prisoners of every race, background, group, organization, etc. said enough is enough! We came together and sat down in a peaceful protest. During dinner (chow hall) as usual the pigs not only violated our constitutional rights (First Amendment freedom of speech) but they also attempted to bully us by flex'n and threatening us. That's when our peaceful protest turned uprising. I wish y'all could have seen the way all the guards (C.O.s, Sergeants, Lieutenants, etc.) ran out the kitchen and chow halls. You would have thought they ran track! Who the cowards now?

For the first time in Missouri history we united. The pigs see the end of their control within our unity. In a matter of seconds we gained control of the kitchen, both dining halls, property room, canteen storage, the factory, forklifts, weapons, keys, phones, computers, etc. Well after a few hours the phones start to ring. Guess who's calling? The warden and highway patrol. For the first time they listened to our demands. They respected us. They feared our unity. They was at our mercy.

On our own terms we surrendered 8-9 hours later. After we got our point across.

Note: 90% of guys in our peaceful protest turned uprising have outdates ranging between a few weeks and 15 years. So only imagine if the outcome was the other way around. 90% of us could have been locked to the board (life without?).

Due to us striving so fast and hard we left administration not only confused but also emotionally off balance. Being that this never happened before in Missouri history they acted off impulse and violated every constitutional right you can think of. Which led to KC Freedom Project lawyers starting a class action lawsuit on our behalf against Missouri DOC. The media has been on fire regarding this.

Update? We still on lockdown! We still receiving brown bags (sack lunches). They say it was $3 million worth of damage. They making us do 1 year. We damn near 6 months in.

Administration is still up to their tricky ways. They have attempted to divide and conquer us by destroying all the guys' property that was in the hole and told them we did it. Also telling all the guys in GP it's our fault they are locked down still. So yeah the struggle continues.

By the way, there have been two other uprisings of this kind since we kicked it off. If we can unite here in Missouri where unity has never existed then any state can.


Another Missouri prisoner wrote:

It has been 13 months since the prisoners bonded together, Black, White, Native and brown (Chicano) and kicked off a riot at Crossroads Correctional Center in Cameron, Missouri, causing over a million dollars in damage. What did it accomplish?

  1. Prison property got damaged that your families who are tax payers (and you too cause you pay taxes on your canteen items) are going to have to pay for the damages.
  2. You injured one another with violent acts and all it accomplished is enemies, and lockdown of the prison.
  3. Supposedly two housing units are to be cleared out for the creation of SHU units. They are supposed to lock up all the gang leaders and violent soldiers.

As of now, this is all just rumor, but every time Missouri prisoners show acts of violence via riots, the prison gets stricter. For example, the 1985 riot in the old Missouri State Penitentiary caused them to build a supermax housing unit.

When are we gonna learn that we are hurting ourselves more ways than one by these acts of violence? When I was advocating peaceful protests with demonstrations of how to shut the prison system down, nobody in Missouri wanted to participate. But you go off on your own and committed this no nonsense act of violence against your brother, your friends, your families, and jeopardized everyone.

It costs $85 million a year to keep the U.S. prisons up and running. The government is not producing this money to keep the prisons going. So where is the money coming from? Let's see now, in Missouri it's coming from Missouri Vocational Enterprise (MVE), the sign shop, the printing shop, the license plate plant (tag plant), the furniture factory, the chemical plant, information technology (IBM program), the braille program, the laundry, the cooled-chill plant (cold food storage), the shoe factory, the Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDot work release) and the newly implemented paneling factory.

The above-mentioned factories are multi-million-dollar industries per year. They are paying you pennies. So what a couple of these jobs pay between $150 and $300 per month. If you peacefully protest by refusing to go to work in these factories, either they are going to pay you at least minimum wage where you will be making at least $340 a week, or they are gonna bring in civilians to do the work, in which case the factories are going to have to be uprooted and moved because most civilians are not coming inside the prisons to work. So to shut down a beast like the U.S. prison system is to shut down their economy — that is, the very thing that's bringing them money to keep the prisons open is the very thing that can shut it down.

This just doesn't begin and end with the prisoners. The prisoner has to survive. He has to eat. So the people in the free world are going to have to support the prisoner financially. Family, friends, advocate organizations are all going to have to pitch in and support the prisoner financially. That means to stop working we have to buy food to eat. To stop using the phones and tablets, we need stamps, envelopes, paper and pens to write letters that cost money. So the free world must understand that for us to make these sacrifices, then society is going to have to make sacrifices to assist us.

So Missouri prisoners, society (family, friends, organizations, advocates, etc.), stop going about things the wrong way and do them like they should be done in order to get results.

I go home next year on parole, but I do not leave my fight behind. There is a bigger world out there, which means a lot more opportunities to fight. I am going to find resources and seek out that they join me in my quest to do away with this beast. I will need their support mentally, physically, spiritually and above all, financially. With this, Comrades, I hope to see you on the other side, working with me and supporting me from the inside and outside.

In struggle—In solidarity
Arm raised—clenched black fist

MIM(Prisons) responds: A lot of folks talk about how hard it is to get people to unite behind bars. The prison controls everything from day-to-day comfort to release dates. And that's powerful incentive to conform. Then they introduce drugs and other distractions to pacify the population. They pay off snitches to keep an eye on activists. And they lock organizers down in solitary confinement. Still, faced with all these barriers, prisoners can and do come together to protest. Conditions at Crossroads CC were bad enough to inspire this action. And while the outcome wasn't all positive, the class action lawsuit and attention of the public has forced the Missouri DOC to admit that prisoners are suffering significant restrictions due to short staffing.

The comrade criticizing this action for its lack of focus and random acts of violence and destruction is right that often these sorts of actions lead to more repression. Though peaceful protests are also often met with increased repression. This debate over tactics in prison protests is one that should be happening within all prisons across the country. We hope the comrades at Crossroads will learn from this action and move forward in greater unity towards future actions that will be even more effective.

Focusing on the economics of prisons reveals the ridiculous scale of the criminal injustice system. As the writer above notes, it would be a significant financial loss to the state if they were forced to hire non-prisoners for all the jobs prisoners are doing. And this is financial leverage that prisoner workers can use to their advantage.

But to debate the value of this tactic we need to first be clear about the scope of prisoner labor. The state of Missouri 2018 budget allocated the Department of Corrections over $725 million. About the same as the previous year, which was up $50 million from 2016.(1) The state would have to allocate even more money if no prisoner labor could be used to help run the prisons, or produce products that are sold to generate revenue. But that prisoner labor is still a small part of the total cost of running prisons.

As we showed from data collected from prisons across the United $tates, in general, losing prisoner labor would add about 10% to the cost of running prisons. Prisons are mostly subsidized by states' budgets. The labor from prisoners just doesn't come close to covering that cost. So while there is definitely economic power in those jobs, shutting down prison industries won't shut down prisons.

We don't aim to just improve conditions. In the end we know the criminal injustice system keeps taking away rights, doing what it can to make prisons a place of suffering and complacency. But this protest showed the people involved that they have the power to take collective action. As the original writer notes, the prison can see their downfall in the unity of the prisoners. This lesson of the importance and power of unity is what will hopefully fuel ongoing organizing.

Notes:
1. State of Missouri Fiscal Year 2018 Executive Budget, HB 9 – Corrections, https://oa.mo.gov/sites/default/files/FY_2018_EB_Corrections.pdf
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[Organizing] [ULK Issue 65]
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Can We Overcome Greed?

I am currently on close management (secured housing), a euphemism for 24/7 lockdown. My level was recently dropped to II, which means I now have a cellmate. However, since there are more people in this dorm, I have been able to spread some knowledge.

I am currently involved in a struggle against violations of prisoners' rights in confinement. Although I don't know much about civil law, I am very resourceful and have found 2 non-profit law firms willing to help Florida prisoners. I have begun, after being here since May, to draw a lot of attention and have already been threatened with retaliation for my grievances (in order to file lawsuits, "administrative remedies" must be exhausted). However, I expected this, and take it as a signal that I am doing good and hitting the right issues, such as not being allowed to exit the cell for the specified "dayroom" time.

They are trying to keep the addicts addicted. It is easier to reach people through face-to-face group studies or even individual studies. I have been doing what I can to get some of the interested prisoners involved in utilizing dialectical materialism. I have also been passing around info on how to fight against the constant oppression. Oppression is good for the oppressed. It is what motivates, and without it complacency would be the norm.

I will be enclosing some more poetry for use in ULK. Also, the issue of Under Lock & Key sent to me was rejected citing that I already receive too many periodicals or publications. I am looking into if there is indeed a set limit or if this is just a sorry excuse for unwarranted censorship.

I've been sitting in my room and really, truly devoting myself to studying the MIM Theory I received. I find myself aligning with MIM on all of its issues and where they stand. I do have a question. It is quite perplexing to me.

It seems to me that one of the biggest problems Maoists and other forms of communism face all have a root in greed. The average human is not inherently good and/or caring. Rather, their main objective in life is to accumulate wealth to ensure a better life for them and hopefully their immediate family. They do not have any feelings or true empathy for those that do not have. So how do we solve this? I am new to this movement, but am very intrigued by the veracity that is communism. Expectantly awaiting.


MIM(Prisons) responds: In response to this question about greed we ask another question: how do you know humyns are inherently greedy? Sure, this is what we see today in the world around us. But capitalism is built on a culture of greed and selfishness. It's no surprise that humyns raised in this culture, inundated with it from birth through school, entertainment, and adult examples, will learn to be greedy and individualist themselves. Further, capitalism rewards this individualism with material wealth. There is little incentive or opportunity to be selfless or generous.

But do we really have evidence that this is inherent in the humyn species? When we look at the example of communist China during the Cultural Revolution, so many people were engaging in tremendous acts of selfless work while also actively fighting against reactionary culture. We don't have to look that far for examples of humyn selflessness. Even under capitalism there are jobs that require greater sacrifice than they offer reward, jobs that really help other people. Perhaps you could argue that these are the few oddballs who didn't get the "greed gene." But perhaps instead they represent what we all could be without indoctrination in greed.

This writer argues that oppression is good for the oppressed because it is what motivates. While we'd agree that oppression is a motivating force, it's still something we strive to eliminate because we believe humyns can be motivated by striving for improvements for society without facing constant oppression.

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[Spanish] [Release] [ULK Issue 67]
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Volver a las Calles es Duro

Hemos estado tratando de establecer un programa efectivo de Liberación En La Vida, aquí en MIM(Prisons) por muchos años. Hemos extendido el apoyo de pre-liberación que ofrecemos a nuestros camaradas activos que están detrás de las rejas. Y hemos sentado algunas estructuras para un mejor contacto y apoyo en las calles. Pero, lo que podemos ofrecer es todavía muy poco frente a la realidad muy dura de una vida en las calles después de una estadía en prisión. Estamos trabajando en extender lo que podemos ofrecer. Eso se implica dinero. Pero eso también requiere de ideas y gente en las calles que trabajen en esto. Nosotros sabemos que lo que estamos haciendo ahora es inadecuado. Pero, estamos tratando de construir.

Por varios años publicamos el boletín, "Liberación en la Vida" (Release on Life newsletter (ROL)), el cuál fue enviado a nuestros camaradas en las calles y aquellos con una fecha de libertad en su futuro cercano. Pero no hubo mucho interés alrededor de este boletín. Nosotros sabemos que Bajo Candado y Llave (ULK) inspira a las personas por que recibimos muchas cartas sobre eso y envían artículos para el mismo. Liberación en la Vida (ROL) no inspiró muchas respuestas o artículos. Así que, vamos a descontinuar ese esfuerzo. En su lugar, nos enfocaremos en apoyo practico y logístico para nuestros liberados. Y seguiremos imprimiendo artículos sobre la liberación en Bajo Candado y Llave (ULK).

Pónganse en contacto con nosotros si tiene una fecha o espera ser puesto en libertad en los siguientes años. Empiece a trabajar con nosotros ahora para poder ayudarlo a que tenga éxito cuando salga a las calles.

A continuación hay una entrevista con uno de nuestros camaradas, quien recientemente fue puesto en libertad, subrayando los desafíos con la vida en las calles y la importancia de prepararse y educarse mientras todavía se está preso.


Saludos Revolucionarios!!! Yo fui puesto en libertad de la Penitenciaria el 9 de Julio del 2018. He estado fuera poco más de un mes. El Gobierno Estatal y Federal no nos están ayudando ni mierda. Esta en nosotros el trabajar duro para proveernos a nosotros mismos. Aprende todo lo que puedas mientras que estas en prisión, porque al salir a estas calles es pura acción sin parar. Para ustedes sin fecha de salida, mucho amor y respeto. Cada uno enseña a uno.

Pregunta: Has encontrado algún apoyo para encontrar vivienda? Y si no, que has hecho y que recomiendas a otros que hagan sino no tienen todavía arreglado el ir a vivir con otras personas?

No, no he recibido vivienda. Yo no he recibido ni mierda del gobierno Estatal o Federal. Si tu no tienes amigos o familiares que te den un techo sobre tu cabeza, entonces sí vas a lucharla de verdad aquí fuera. Yo tengo familia y amigos que me han bendecido con apoyo.

Pregunta: Has podido inscribirte para cualquier programa de apoyo del gobierno (Estampillas para comida; Seguro Social; Asistencia Pública, etc)?

Sí, me inscribí para beneficios y mierdas de ese tipo, pero, tanto el gobierno Estatal como el Federal me negaron.

Pregunta: Que hiciste para encontrar trabajo después de haber sido puesto en libertad?

Yo aplique en agencias de empleo, mierdas como esa, pero cuando investigaban mi nombre, nunca me llamaban. Todavía no tengo trabajo. He estado afuera ya dos meses. Se puede decir que trabajo por mi propia cuenta.

Pregunta: Tú dices que las personas deberían aprender todo lo que puedan mientras que están presos. En qué tipo de programas y estudios les recomiendas a los presos que se enfoquen en prisión, para prepararse para cuando salgan a las calles?

Yo digo, que las personas deberían aprender todo lo que puedan en prisión, como leer libros. Yo cumplí mi sentencia en encierro solitario (Ad-Seg) porque soy un miembro activo de STG. Yo mismo me eduqué. Usa tu tiempo sabiamente porque una vez que salgas a calles, es todo otro mundo.

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[Organizing] [ULK Issue 65]
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USW Countrywide Council Passes New Policy on Work Reports

In an effort to make work reports more useful within the Council, the below was passed unanimously, with the majority voting to keep the old method of reporting work hours in addition to the below. We are printing this in ULK to solicit work reports from USW leaders who are not yet Council members. By submitting short monthly reports to the Council, we will better be able to sum up the efforts of USW as a whole, while vetting emerging cells for Council membership.

All USW cells with an active Council representative must submit monthly work reports to remain in the Council.
All USW cells are encouraged to submit monthly work reports to the Council. Work reports should be one to two paragraphs. They should address the following points as needed to update the Council on your work in the last month:
  • What types of activities did your cell participate in that contributed to USWs mission?
  • What campaigns did your cell participate in or promote in the last month?
  • What Serve the People programs did your cell operate?
  • What were the responses from the masses and USW recruits to this work?
  • What questions came up? How did you answer them? Or do you need help answering them?
  • What lessons did you learn in the last month?
  • What are the most pressing issues that are of concern to the masses in your location? Are there any new or developing issues of concern to the masses there?
  • What organizations/services have you recently found useful in your work (include contact info)?
  • What successes have you achieved in the last month?

MIM(Prisons) will not share revealing information with the Council. Please keep in mind that your outgoing mail is being read and report on your work accordingly.

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[Security] [Civil Liberties]
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Reddit (Temporarily) Suspends MIMPrisons, Shows Limits of Centralized Communications Networks

Everything is political. While originally developed around a subculture with ideas of "free speech", reddit.com is an Amerikkkan corporation controlling major segments of online traffic and information. It's policy of public anonymity made it a platform that MIM(Prisons) had actively participated on for the last 5 years. We say public anonymity, as over time the site has done more and more to track the identities and patterns of its users privately. But it is unlike Facebook where you must publicly identify yourself in order to participate.

MIM(Prisons) official Reddit account, /u/mimprisons, has been suspended by Reddit for "suspicious activity" and is seemingly unrecoverable. [UPDATE: After some more work on this issue Reddit has since recovered the /u/mimprisons account. We still don't know what the cause was of this temporary suspension. But it has been resolved.] This came one month after the account began actively promoting tactics for secure online organizing in the /r/mao_internationalist subreddit. This comrade will now be posting as /u/mimonline. We will see how long that is allowed.

When we originally set up our official Reddit account it was partially an insurance policy in case we became inaccessible via email, as happened when the FBI shut down our email provider, lavabit.com. While Reddit and Facebook are centralized communication platforms controlled by one entity, email is a federated system with many central email servers inter-operating with each other. However, setting up and maintaining an email server is not easy, so the options are still limited and anonymous email has been challenging at times.

Decentralized systems of communication are the only model that is truly censorship resistant. This is why tools like Tox are important and something our movement is beginning to use and promote more. Tox provides censorship resistance, encryption and verifiable identities. It is also available for all major platforms.

Totalitarianism in the United $tates masquerades as freedom by allowing you to pick your toys in the color of your choice, or even by making statements that are nominally outside the mainstream as long as they reinforce systems of oppression (i.e. pornographic denigration of wimmin). Meanwhile it successfully paints the image of socialist countries as grey, drab and unsexy in contrast. The internet embodies this contradiction, by offering an endless stream of content, with almost all of it controlled by the corporate gatekeepers of Google, Facebook, Reddit, Cloudflare and others.

MIM has always promoted a free internet, whether under the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie or the proletariat. This can only be ensured with the proper technological infrastructure, which is currently being built by volunteers and fringe organizations. Under socialism these technologies will receive state sponsorship to ensure the integrity of mass communication in the digital age. Currently, the vast majority of the Third World are stuck in closed corporate ecosystems like Facebook and QZone. We have strategic confidence that the vast majority of the world has an interest in building communism, and unfettering their communications will contribute to that project.

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[Culture] [ULK Issue 65]
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Struggle

All my life
I felt nothing but pain
I see no blood, and I see no stains
I lost all that I gained
Where do I go
Where do I run
Running in circles
Til my feet are numb

All my life
I cry, I lie.
I became ashamed, so I denied
What I seen, and where I been
I promise you won't understand a thing
See it's a lie
When they say all champions
Wear a ring

All my life
It's been a struggle
Some people only understand the trouble
Doesn't know how it feel to be poor
And has to hustle

It doesn't matter how you read it, or how it look
Never judge a cover without reading the book
Struggle comes with mistakes
We all understand positive
But live our life with hate

With struggles, life isn't fair
Even with struggles, someone cares
With all the hurt and pain
We learn to move on
When struggles tear us apart
We now pick up the pieces
To try and understand
We leave the past behind
Because with all the errors
And still facing errors
We can't turn back the time

Life is a struggle
For some to comprehend
Life is a struggle
To make us become better men
With tears that fall down our eyes
That actually means
We now realize
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[Civil Liberties] [National Oppression] [ULK Issue 68]
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Whether Gangster or Rev; Oppressed Nations Labelled Enemy

We are caught in a system of competitiveness, manipulation, one against the other, brother against brother, family against family, people against people, gangs against gangs, ethnic groups against ethnic groups, color against color, class against class, instead of minority or lower class against the ruling class.

We focus too much on meaningless self-imposed politics that were manipulated into our minds growing up. Like ditch school, destroy your own neighborhoods, sell drugs to your own people, we gang bang, we fight our own over colors and sides only. The only way you can make it is by rapping about killing your own people or selling drugs to your own. As a Chicano I grew up not only hearing this from my peers but that's also what the music I was told to like and listen to said. The television also told me my people are only on TV as gang bangers, drug dealers, etc.

As I grew older I started to realize something is wrong here, where did I go wrong? What have I done for myself? For my family? For my people? Nothing but self-imposed distraction. I am soaking in my own blood and that of my people. I got a hunger for knowledge. Why is it things are the way they are?

The more I studied, the more I realized this is not new but a very old cycle set up by a system to manipulate my mind. A system that went after Martin L. King, a peaceful man, a pastor on his quest for civil rights. The government unlawfully wired his phones, tried to break up his family, tried to unlawfully disrupt his movement by all means to an end. We've learned how the CIA was helping Pablo Escobar flood our streets with drugs. How they dismantled and unlawfully disrupted the Brown Berets and Black Panthers because they were trying to teach and uplift the people; telling them there is a system in place to oppress you, know and understand your rights, bear arms to protect your neighborhoods from pig brutality. After both Brown Berets and Panthers fell our children were open to assault by this system, poor schools, no jobs, drugs. Then record labels signed groups who furthered the system's wishes singing and rapping, "kill your own," "sell drugs," "it's cool to go to prison."

Regardless of tribe, set, race, if you are classified as Security Threat Group (STG) you are on the same boat as me. STG is a Homeland Security term for a domestic terrorist. First rule in war, identify your enemy. We have been identified and classified as enemies of the state. What else is there to be said? Are we to continue letting our self-imposed politics disrupt reality? Such insignificant things and views like colors and sides or race hinder our lives? They can stop one arrow not a hundred. There's nothing wrong with being part of groups, families, etc. But it is wrong when those groups lose focus of the message and cause. It is not okay to soak in the blood of your own people, period.

Learn from our oppressor, they are some cold operators, they understand the power of knowledge and education. The ruling class in the United States is composed of men and their families who use ivy league universities and elite law schools as private schools for their offspring and as training grounds for their corporate livelihoods. They rule us with iron precision through the military, the CIA, the FBI, private foundations and financial institutions. Their control of all the media of education and communication comprises an extremely effective system of thought control.

We must learn from someone who defeated this system. Ho Chi Minh understood the power of education. His mandated policy for his warriors and cadres was spot on. Fighting and violence is easy. You must have balance. You must be able to read and write, be able to teach others and most importantly fully understand and be educated in your political paradigm and why you are fighting.

Chicanos in Colorado are currently in a struggle for our true history. We hunger for knowledge because that knowledge has ended all violence between tribes, shown us our common interests, not the blind mentality of colors and sides. We are currently under assault by Colorado Department of Corrections, not allowing us to receive our real education, stopping all education or history on the concept of Aztlán, Chicano unity, Mexica movement, claiming it's STG. Since when is history and education a crime? Well for us, always.

If there is to be a movement, then there must be leaders. Those leaders must be judged by their ability to give not take. Leadership must convey confidence, not egotism, one who sacrifices, not one who is an opportunist. Leadership is the act of using power to free people, not to control them. It is not the strongest of the species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change.


MIM(Prisons) responds: The destruction of the Black Panther Party, the flooding of cities with drugs, and the rejection of literature on [email protected] history in prison are all manifestations of the same system. This system seeks to peacefully control oppressed nations by keeping them from learning about the history of this oppression and the many examples of resistance. And when that fails it locks up the oppressed, or even targets activists for death.

What can we do about this system with so much more power and resources than we have as activists and anti-imperialists? The truth is our side has more power; we have 80% of the world's population, which is exploited and oppressed by imperialism, on our side. The imperialists are paper tigers, that appear fearsome, but in reality are propped up on a fairly fragile structure of power.

That said, dismantling that structure will take a lot of organization, trial and error. As this comrade points out, we need to focus on education and fight to get true history into the hands of the oppressed. And then we need leaders to step up and organize and educate others. There is no special qualification for this leadership. Anyone who sees the problems in the world around them can take up organizing others to fight back. United Struggle from Within is an organization for these leaders, and MIM(Prisons) supports USW organizers with literature and resources. Get in touch today to get started with a local study group or campaign against repression in your prison or elsewhere in the world.

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